(The Gear Loop) - Shorter days, colder temperatures and generally fouler conditions make winter an unwelcoming time for those hardy souls venturing out on two wheels, but thanks to modern technology and fabrics, the winter months can be made a little more bearable on a bike.
Staying warm and dry is the name of the game when road riding in winter, so layering is critical to maintain your core temperature without becoming a sweaty mess at the top of the first climb.
Here's our pick of the best winter kit to keep you riding through what can be a hugely rewarding time on two wheels. Crisp mornings, golden light and the thought of summer riding to spur you on.
All the kit mentioned below is available in both men and women’s specific fits, so no one has to miss out on top quality kit and riding time.
The best winter riding kit for road cyclists
Knog Blinder 600
Lights are arguably the most important aspect of any road riders winter arsental and unless you’re riding in the pitch black, the chances are your lights are there allow other road users to see you more easily, rather than illuminating the road in front of you.
If that's the case, we’ve been using the Blinder 600 from Knog on the front and Blinder R-150 on the rear (see below). Those who are paying attention will infer that the Blinder 600 emits, you guessed it, 600 lumens of light in a range of flashing modes and beam patterns perfect for alerting other road users of your presence.
Waterproof to 3ft with an IP67 rating, it’s perfect for those wet winter mornings and with a run time of eight hours on the flash mode, it’ll keep going until the sun goes down.
Knog Blinder R-150
The Blinder R-150 is a rear light that plays well with the Blinder 600. It weighs in a svelte 48g, so even the most avid of gram counters have no excuse for not being seen.
Capable of running for 60 hours across nine flash patterns, we can see the Blinder R150 becoming a permanent feature on our ride... even into the summer.
Why? Because it is compact, simple and recharges via a handy USB, so no more mucking around with batteries. Like its powerful front-mounted cousin, it's also robust and waterproof. A solid balance of banging output, build quality and affordability.
Van Rysel Road Cycling Base Layer
The foundations underpinning any warm but sweat-free ride starts with a base layer. Their purpose is to wick sweat away from the skin to prevent you from becoming a moist mess and regulate body temperature. This is especially important in cooler conditions, as you’ll very rapidly become cold from wind chill.
This Road Cycling Base Layer from Decathlon has been our go-to base layer this season – even better that it’s the most affordable bit of kit on this list.
Using a combination of different materials - a lighter and more open fabric on the chest and shoulders and a slightly heavier material around the torso, means areas with less blood flow (forearms, abdomen) are kept warmer compared to regulate temps effectively.
£9.99 | Buy from Decathlon
Rapha Pro Team Training Tights
Rapha’s new Pro Team Training Tights fill an interesting spot in the winter wardrobe. They’re not fleece lined, so aren’t warm enough for those deep winter rides, but instead prove perfect for the warm and wet conditions that seem to constitute a British winter these days.
The chamois is borrowed straight from Rapha’s fabled Pro Team line, so is generously padded yet provided comfort when hunkered down in the drops for extended periods.
The wide yet minimalist shoulder straps keep the tights in the right place without digging into our shoulders and the pared-back mesh uppers balance support with breathability.
We’d like to see a DWR coating on the front panels to fend off road spray, but they perfectly balance a performance tight with winter-proof properties.
£215 | Buy from Rapha
Universal Colours Spectrum Long Sleeve Jersey
Universal Colours muscled in on the already congested cycling scene a few years ago with well made, well-fitting and understated kit. The Spectrum jersey didn’t get the understated memo, but the well-made and well-fitting design certainly carries over from its other kit.
The brushed Italian nylon is luxuriously soft against the skin and feels a little more substantial than other winter jerseys we’ve worn. This doesn’t mean it restricted our movement though, as there’s a degree of stretch built into the fabric.
The Spectrum uses a PFC free DWR coating to make sure light rain and spray simply beads off. The eco credentials don’t end with the DWR either, as the entire garment is OEKO-TEX certified to ensure no harmful substances are used in the manufacture of the jersey.
The traditional three pockets are found on the rear with a zippered and waterproof pocket for valuables.
£140 | Buy from Universal Colours
Le Col Hors Categorie Jacket II
One jersey isn't enough for ardent winter road riders and some days you need something that can put up with howling winds and biting chills.
Taking its name from the highest classification of mountain on the Tour de France, the Hors Categorie uses Polartec Alpha fabrics on the inside to provide enormous warmth, while still being lightweight with a Neoshell outer to keep water out.
The fit of the jacket also contributes to warmth and dryness too, a generous dropped tail keeps your behind dry and the high collar keeps your neck cosy. The Hors Categorie is available in both men’s and women’s specific cut.
£330 | Buy from Le Col
GripGrab Flandrien Knitted Overshoes
Cycling shoes need to be breathable. Pounding up and down hills can be quite a sweat-inducing activity and there’s nothing worse than uncomfortably hot feet. As a result, manufacturers aim to make their shoes as breathable as possible, with large vents and lightweight materials selected to exhaust heat efficiently.
But breathable materials and large vents aren’t ideal when the roads are wet and the air is icy - wear a pair of summer shoes out in the winter and you’ll be wishing you hadn’t bothered, as your feet turn into ice cubes.
Thankfully the Belgians (masters of riding in wet and grimy conditions) have come up with a solution:GripGrab Flandrien Knitted Overshoes.
The close fitting and stretchy cut means they stay in place and thanks to a waterproof membrane, puddles and road spray are not an issue. The material is soft touch and feels quite luxurious, which is perfect for locking in the warmth in deep winter.
Reinforced panels on the sole and high abrasion areas mean these overshoes will last for many seasons to come and they are available in everything from retina searing fluro and pink to a more understated grey and black if that’s more your thing.
GripGrab Waterproof Knitted Thermal Cycling Gloves
GripGrab come to the rescue again with their frankly brilliant thermal gloves. You might be thinking they look like any normal pair of gloves - and to a certain extent that’s because they are. They’ve just been designed to do the basics really well.
A waterproof membrane keeps water out and the knitted thermal fabric keeps warmth in, without becoming overly sweaty. It's a simple combination, but we’ve tried our fair share of gloves that leave a lot to be desired at a lot higher price.
Some gloves we’ve used are stunningly warm but have so much bulk, it is difficult to accurately change gear. Thankfully these Thermal gloves are on the thinner side, which does wonders for dexterity but doesn’t compromise warmth.
A simple gripper pattern on the palm keeps you in control of the bike and reflective detailing on the finger means you’ll be seen in the gloom.
Proviz Reflect360 Gilet
When it isn’t slashing with rain or blowing a gale, conditions in winter can be quite mild, so reaching for a fleece lined winter jacket or waterproof might be complete overkill. conditions like this is where the gilet really shines. Keeping your core warm but arms exposed, it’s the perfect combination for clement winter riding.
Made entirely of reflective material, the Reflect360 Gilet from Proviz is one of our favourites. Shine a light towards the fabric and it lights up like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Paired with a good set of bike lights, you can be confident that you’ll be seen on even the gloomiest days.
A perforated back means excess heat and moisture can escape and a single pocket offers safe refuge for a phone, but you’ll need to use the pockets on your jersey for carrying spares and snacks.
dhb Vector PhotoChromatic Lens Sunglasses
Riding in winter is a tricky business - one minute the skies can be dark and threatening with rain and the next the sun can be hovering above the horizon blinding you. Changeable conditions like this are where a photochromic lens in your sunglasses can be a godsend.
The Vector sunglasses from dhb have been our pick of the bunch this winter, offering up to date looks, a lightweight frame and that all0-important photochromic lens at a great price point.
The single lens design means you get a huge and unobstructed field of view and the vents under the brow prevent fogging up even when slogging up the steepest climbs
Sidi Zero Gore 2
We get it, wrestling a pair of overshoes on and off before and after each ride can get tiresome, especially when you’ve been riding in foul conditions and they’re coated in a film of mud and grub.
Thankfully, some manufactures have woken up to this and have introduced winter-specific shoes into their ranges. Stalwarts in the motorcycle boot and cycling shoe game, Sidi, has combined its excellent carbon sole with a breathable Gore-Tex membrane to keep water out and warmth in. Further aided by the high ankle gaiter, the Zero Gore 2s are the perfect companion for deep winter riding.
Adopting Sidi’s Tecno-3 system to dial in the fit along the entire length of the shoe using their famously reliable wire closure system, you can be sure of all day comfort.